Joined at the Heart · Writers Write

Day 7: Sick at Epcot


We ate our sack lunch under Spaceship Earth. The geodesic dome, invented by Buckminster Fuller, is the symbol of Epcot. Ray Bradbury worked on the design. Two icons built another, so-to-speak. My kids dubbed it, God’s golf ball. The structure dwarfs everything–even at Disney.

That’s where I saw them.

The woman in a wheelchair vomited into a bag. The grown daughter hovered, holding her mother’s head. The son-in-law distracted the grandkids, a four-year old girl and her eight-year old brother.

I turned my head away. My own girls munched on Pringles. I didn’t say anything. No one wants to watch a person empty her stomach, especially during lunch. After a few minutes, a cast member supplied paper towels and a clean trash bag. All Disney employees are cast members, even those who don’t wear a plush animal head.

It was hot. Steamy. Miserable weather for a healthy person. The shade of the sphere wasn’t much help. I ate my sandwich and connected the woman to the others I’d seen. A little girl in a wheelchair, do-rag covering a bare scalp. A man with a portable oxygen tank. A younger mom driving an electric scooter with a preschooler on her lap. Some were accompanied by an entourage, but most looked like these people. A few family members attempting to cross Disney off a bucket list.

Years earlier, I sat in a salon chair. The man cutting my hair rambled.

“My niece has cancer.”

The guy wasn’t a friend. I’d never seen him before or since.

“Oh, I’m sorry.”

“Yeah. They did Disney already. While she still can. Make-a-Wish, you know.”

When my girls were small, I knew a mom with breast cancer. The last summer of her life, she managed a vacation to The Magic Kingdom with her two little ones. I hadn’t thought much about her until that moment at Epcot. As wonderful as this vacation was for my family, it was also hard work. Walt Disney World may be billed as The Happiest Place on Earth, but I couldn’t imagine a worse place to be sick. I looked back at the woman in the wheelchair, trying to be tough for her family. The daughter gathered their things. The son-in-law pushed the chair back toward the gate. I prayed a silent blessing for all of them.

And a thank you that we were healthy. I was reminded of something my mother said once. “You never know about the future. Be happy now.”

I’m not waiting to work on the bucket list.

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